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Front sight focus - I don't get it?


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Thanks everyone for the replies, lots of interesting discussion!

MarkCO, sounds like you've done a good amount of research on this. Do you, and everyone else, have difficulty shooting with a target focus in low light or with a gun that has plain black sights? In some lighting conditions or with sights that aren't higher visibility I have trouble with the target focus and then feel the need to close one eye to better see the sights.

If I could figure this part out I'd feel pretty good about using target focus for most shooting. Although I'm still going to work on figuring out the front sight focus so I have more tools in the toolbox to choose from.

Also, what can I do/practice to learn how to call shots with a target focus?

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After reading through the post again, and after much thought I began to question my understanding of what a target focus is. It's been my belief all along that a target focus is more or less looking at the target and with the sights more or less in your peripheral vision, or maybe looking through the sights but focusing on the target.

Maybe I'm wrong about what I think a target focus is but the bottom line is that you will be doing yourself a major diservice and your progression will be limited if you don't learn to focus at some degree on the front sight, see the sights lift out of the notch, and call your shots. That degree of focus varies from shooter to shooter, and some advanced shooters have learned what kind of focus, whether target or front sight, they can get away with at various distances. Here are a couple of old post that are very well worded and make much more since to me than some I've read recently.

When I am shooting consistant...my eyes are on the front sight.

When I shoot with a target focus, I may be somewhat faster at times (may not)...but, I will trash a stage or two every so often.

'CHA-LEE', on 29 Oct 2012 - 11:12 PM, said:

I must be a freak because I almost always have worse hit quality when I have a target focus and my gun or sights are in my peripheral vision. I can run a stage in the exact same time using both a target focus and a sight focus and my sight focus run will always yield better quality hits. I have proven to myself time and time again that it takes no additional time to keep a sight focus even on the closest targets. The added benefit to this is that keeping a sight focus allows me to call my shots instead of looking at the target for holes. You can waste a boat load of stage time looking for holes to appear in the target when you have a hard target focus.

'benos', on 23 Aug 2004 - 7:06 PM, said:

Because of the high-speed nature of IPSC shooting, if one comes to IPSC without a good background in the fundamentals of shooting, I've noticed a pattern during the learning curve.

Typically we start out blazing away, so we never really learn what it means or the importance of calling each shot precisely. Then after shooting for some time, maybe years, we start to realize that hitting the targets is more important than going fast, because "you can't miss fast enough to win." During this hosing phase, we ingrain bad visual habits because the targets do not challenge our weaknesses, and after some time we just kinda point shoot most everything. Then, as we start to open up to the fact that calling is important, we're so used to looking at the wrong things while "going fast," it feels like we must really slow down in order to see enough of the sights to call the shots. At this point it becomes a psychological battle, because there's no way we're going to shoot slower.

At this point hearing a good explanation and believing in it become a factor. Furthermore, you must prove it to yourself in practice before you'll ever trust enough to do it in a match.

Spread 6 or 8 targets around the range between 8 and 15 yards, and stick no-shoots, right next to the A-boxes, on a couple of them. Draw and shoot one shot on each left to right, right down your time, then do the same thing right to left, then repeat both strings for a total of four strings. Then figure your score using the time-plus method, adding .2 of a second for each point dropped. Do this forever or until you figure out what you must do and how you must see in order to get the best score.

be

Edited by grapemeister
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Thanks everyone for the replies, lots of interesting discussion!

MarkCO, sounds like you've done a good amount of research on this. Do you, and everyone else, have difficulty shooting with a target focus in low light or with a gun that has plain black sights? In some lighting conditions or with sights that aren't higher visibility I have trouble with the target focus and then feel the need to close one eye to better see the sights.

If I could figure this part out I'd feel pretty good about using target focus for most shooting. Although I'm still going to work on figuring out the front sight focus so I have more tools in the toolbox to choose from.

Also, what can I do/practice to learn how to call shots with a target focus?

My short answer about sights is yes. Some form of front sight enhancement such as fiber optic helps with seeing the front sight in lower light. For me it is front sight only. I don't like the rear sight fiber optic. Black on black no longer works for me but I am a myopic 57 year old. I have progressive lenses but don't use that part when shooting. I use the distance correction. For me green fiber works the best in lower light and appears to be the clearest. Red seems to disappear fairly quickly as light fades and for me seemly fuzzier in daylight.

As for learning to call shots with target focus, it is just like calling the shot with front sight focus although I do it different than many other shooters. When I am done with a cof, I can't tell you exactly where my hits are but I can tell you whether they were good or not. If I fire just one or two shots I can but when I am through with a target I forget those hits and concentrate on the next. It's kind of a zen thing. What I am doing at the moment is exactly what I am doing at the moment. That is, if I am shooting good that day.

Dwight

Edited by Dwight Stearns
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I have to admit, I think there's a lot of misinformation in this thread. You need to figure out for yourself what you need to make the shot. Remember there's some guy out there that will shoot 95% of the points faster than anyone else. They're called match winners.

So in order to accomplish that you have to know what it will take to get a pair of Alphas. Not Alpha Charlie. If you can reliably get 2 Alphas with a target only site picture at 3 yards great. Same at seven or 10 yards. But you got to have to Alphas. The other guy will.

Again, you have to know with absolutely certainty what you can get away with. If a target focus works reliably at 10 yards without seeing the sights at all, great. But you have to KNOW it. Obviously there are grades of sight awareness and your mind and eyes need to adapt and find what YOU need to see to get 2 alpha. Anything less and you're giving up points and will lose to someone who can and will shoot more points faster.

As for shooting only glasses, I think that the idea of racing but not wearing performance glasses to prepare for the "real thing" is absurd. You're either racing or you're not racing. If you're using a race prepare gun with a fiber-optic front sight, an ultra light trigger, grip tape blah blah blah blah blah and it seems like you're racing. Make your eyes work for you like you're racing too. There's nothing wrong with a pair of glasses that has your dominant eye crisp at the front site and your nondominant night crisp at distance.

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MarkCO, sounds like you've done a good amount of research on this. Do you, and everyone else, have difficulty shooting with a target focus in low light or with a gun that has plain black sights? In some lighting conditions or with sights that aren't higher visibility I have trouble with the target focus and then feel the need to close one eye to better see the sights.

If I could figure this part out I'd feel pretty good about using target focus for most shooting. Although I'm still going to work on figuring out the front sight focus so I have more tools in the toolbox to choose from.

Also, what can I do/practice to learn how to call shots with a target focus?

Like Dwight, I prefer a front green fiber and a serrated black rear. Red blooms too much in full light and goes away faster in low light. I tend to lose black on black sights and my accuracy suffered. However, I find I have no issues in low light with a target focus. The rear width compared to the front width will have some impact as well. The less the front fills the rear, the easier a target focus is for me while still being able to verify sights and call the shots.

Most of my recent improvement in this area is due to taking a class with Manny Bragg and then workign on that investment by application: more learning, asking and fully listening to the answers, followed by range verification.. I will admit that having access to some top shooters is very valuable. I almost tried to empty my head about what I thought I knew about the use of sights at speed and re-tooled. The actual time on the range working on this was comprised of about 4K rounds of rimfire through a Ruger 22/45 Lite with a TS green front sight and a VQ trigger. I would run the drills for shot calling slow, then faster and finish off shooting the drills at the same speed with my M&P Pro9.

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I have to admit, I think there's a lot of misinformation in this thread. You need to figure out for yourself what you need to make the shot. Remember there's some guy out there that will shoot 95% of the points faster than anyone else. They're called match winners.

So ask those guys what they do to win. One thing I can guarantee, no one who had won a major match in the last 10 years has done what you suggest: "figure out for yourself what you need to make the shot." They all learned, borrowed, adapted and applied concepts and techniques others have used. Perfected? maybe, but the winning technique of today is not what the winning technique of 1993 was!

Go watch a video of a late 1980s or early 1990s Nationals. The scores posted by the match winners would be maybe 70% today at a Nationals. That may torque some people the wrong way, but the metrics are there and enough similar presentations to be able to see that the top shooters today are about 30% ahead of the top shooters of 20 years ago. FWIW, that is what is so impressive about Jerry, Voigt, TGO...they were constantly getting better, even though they were winning.

That said, there is no one "perfect" path for everyone where shooting at speed is concerned. But the discussion is valuable and it may help some who have struggled find a path that is easier, or more productive for them to travel.

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Mark,

I've been uniquely positioned to do just that. I was Match Director at Fredericksburg, which is one of the largest USPSA matches in the country. I've trained privately with Todd Jarrett and I've had plenty of opportunity to discuss with the 5+ GMs I would shoot with every month what they do and how they do it.

I feel confident in the recommendation that a shooter needs to know what they can do. They need to know what it takes to get two Alpha at any distance.

Just saying oh you can have a fuzzy target focus at 10 yards doesn't mean THEY can it means YOU can. You have to experiment. You have to know what you can pull off.

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I used to do exactly what Brian suggested, but I was slow and I had GMs tell me I was "aiming my ass off". I had moved up to about 95% of points per match. Then I changed and stopped focusing on my front sight for everything but the 15 yard plus targets. My speed increased and my points were still there. I have been using a focus about 7 to 10 yards out this season and my scores have improved. I would assert there are more GMs using this technique than would admit it.

You weren't doing what Brian suggested if you were slow. I used to do it at 8-10 yards...while only transitioning from the body to the head...which, for me, was a 0.15s transition.

You may have been "aiming your ass off", but that is not what Brian is talking about.

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To the OP - I'm not so sure that you don't have a 'hardware' issue. Corrected vision sometimes narrows the depth of field that you can have in focus. Talk to your eye doc about what you are experiencing and what you are trying to achieve.

All of us have one eye that is dominant but the degree of dominance can vary. The more equal the eyes are the harder it is to shoot well with both eyes open. Squinting or tape can help.

As you can see from this interesting discussion there is a variety of techniques that work for a variety of people. You have to learn to see what you need to see to make the shots you want to make. Read Brian's book again.

There were some tounge in cheek comments about shooting Open but you may find that a dot sight is the best solution, for your shooting if not for your checkbook.

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You may have been "aiming your ass off", but that is not what Brian is talking about.

With all dues respect Kyle, Brian's input is like an onion, lots of layers, and you might cry. I have read his book 4 times now and what he "told" me the first time is not what he "told" me the 4th time. Can't take a kid on training wheel and stuff them in an F1. But, having driven an Indycar at 10, it sure accelerated my desire to race and matured me quicker as a driver. The same can be said of shooting.

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Target focus, or front sight focus; does it really matter if one can call his shots and is accurate?

We can measure accuracy/precision. There are degrees of that. There are also degrees of shot calling. That makes sense, right?

How good is the information we are getting? Where is the best feedback going to come from? For me, it comes from the sights. The trick is to get the best feedback, without it costing you anything.

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Many of you are saying the same things, just interpreting them like they are different. I don't really think there's any particular need for anyone to be disagreeing with anyone here.

Bottom lines:

You can't use a target focus all the time and be the best.

You need to figure out your eye situation in order to increase the speed at which you are able to focus on the front sight.

Edited by Whoops!
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Precisely my point. If the only tool you own is a hammer, everything looks just like a nail.

Aiming is the same way in my opinion. If all you know how to do is target focus when you are pushed out to 15, 20, 50 yards you're hosed. If all you know how to do is hard sight focus then you may be slow on a 3 yard target.

You need to know where your boundaries are. You need to know where you can speed up and where you have to slow down.

Edited by Seth
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One of the things that many of the target focus/point shooting advocates (not on this forum) always overlooked...

It is really shooting from your index.

Now matter how you shoot, it is vital to develop a good index.

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If all you know how to do is hard sight focus then you maybe slow on a 3 yard target.

Why would you be slow on a 3y target? What would slow you down?

I can see if a series of targets were placed at a close distance, it might be faster to eliminate the transition and verification time.

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May. Not will.

OK...question still stands. What may slow one down?

Too much time focused on accuracy when a proper index, as you alluded to earlier, will yield 2 alpha without dawdling.

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This may or may not come out right, but I'm going to try to convey what's going through my mind anyway.

There is a difference in seeing or watching something and looking at/for it. I think it is two states of mind, one is visual observation and one is visual intent to observe. Visual intent to observe is what is driving your eyes from target spot to front sight back and forth while dragging the gun along with them. To call a shot, however, is a pure state of observation in my opinion. You don't have to want the bullet to hit anywhere in particular to see where it actually will hit. You do need to want the shot to land on a particular place on the target in order for the target and sights to line up there though. So I think the trick is switching frames of mind readily until you reach a point in which you can program a COF in your mind and then hit "run" when the buzzer goes off. The rest of the COF can be spent in pure observation mode(for the most part) which allows the super speedy make up shot "program" to run if necessary due to thorough training.

What plagued me for so long is intending to see the front sight lift and call the shot. It was killing me that I could witness everything I needed yet could not see what was actually there. I think many people when they are told "front sight" start to do this. Staring at it until it is all crisp and perfect, lined up on target, everything is good to go and then fire. The shot looked good, "I swear I saw the front sight" , but when you get to the target the hit is not where you thought it was. I think this is a "love is blind" moment. You want to see something so bad that it obscures the truth. While it may not be so extreme for most people, I think that the frame of mind is the key component to making front sight focus work correctly and not cost extra time.

The thing with target focus could be chalked up to less mental strain in maintaining discipline to follow through with front sight focus when it is not required to make an acceptable shot. The perception of time getting away from you can cause that visual intent to observe something happening instead of just watching it happening.

I hope that makes sense...

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Well put, IMO. What I'm trying to get across is this:

Every shot needs to be an Alpha to be competitive. Just like slapping the trigger vs. a prep, it doesn't matter HOW you do it, as long as it gets done without negatively effecting the outcome.

If you are blindingly fast at 10 yards and can yield 2 As with your eyes closed, then there's your answer. Each shot needs to be given the appropriate level of attention that it deserves. A target at 3 yards doesn't, FOR ME, need a whole lot of attention to be scored 2 Alpha. I'll look just close enough to get the desired score and shoot as fast as I can to yield that outcome. 15 yard partial is going to take a LOT more attention to sight alignment. Winging it with a target focus most likely will yield 2 Mike/ 2 No Shoot.

I keep both eyes open all the time. When I need to dial into the sights, I do that. When I don't I open my field of vision back up.

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May. Not will.
OK...question still stands. What may slow one down?
Too much time focused on accuracy when a proper index, as you alluded to earlier, will yield 2 alpha without dawdling.

So, if one did not focus on more accuracy than needed...would looking at the sights hurt or help?

I'm trying to figure out where the dawdling of time comes from...so that it can be addressed and eliminated.

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Many of you are saying the same things, just interpreting them like they are different. I don't really think there's any particular need for anyone to be disagreeing with anyone here.

Bottom lines:

You can't use a target focus all the time and be the best.

You need to figure out your eye situation in order to increase the speed at which you are able to focus on the front sight.

Well said! I think many of us are pretty much saying the same thing.
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